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Libertarian Party files lawsuit, argues law keeps candidates off ballot

Updated: September 11, 2019 10:25 PM

The Libertarian Party of Minnesota is taking its frustration over election laws to court.

“This is a nominating petition,” said Chairperson Chris Holbrook, as he explained the process to get candidates on the ballot.

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“Major party candidates can just pay the filing fee, we have to petition.”

For some races, candidates have to get 2,000 signatures.

Under state law, people who sign third-party nominating petitions have to pledge they won’t vote in the primary for that race. If they do, they can be charged with perjury.

“That clause prevents people from signing, it scares them off,” said Holbrook.

He told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS that the law prevents more third-party candidates from making it onto the ballot.

On Aug. 21, he and other party leaders filed a lawsuit against Ramsey County Attorney John Choi, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman and Anoka County Attorney Tony Palumbo.

The county attorneys enforce the laws, which Holbrook believes are unconstitutional.

“This isn't just about my political party,” he said. “It's about all people outside of the main two parties having a chance, having a voice.”

We sat down with David Schultz to learn about the reasoning behind the law. He’s a Hamline University political science professor and he teaches election law at the University of Minnesota.

“[The state] would make the argument, this is to prevent fraud,” he said. “A second would be what's called to prevent parties from being factionalized, or broken up, so we create too many small parties.”

“Another, is the argument this prevents voter confusion.”

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Still, according to Schultz, the lawsuit has merit.

“This is not an impossible lawsuit,” he said. “If you were to look at a lot of ballot access cases across the country, there are quite a few Supreme Court cases that have said if the requirements are too difficult, too onerous, that's a problem.”

Schultz said Minnesota is actually the middle of the road when it comes to helping third-parties get on the ballot.

“But, certainly I would not say that we are among the leaders of the country, in fact, we have some laws in this state that make it quite hard,” he said.

“We could probably facilitate and make it easier to do so. Maybe that would be better in terms of allowing people more choices, more opportunities to vote, maybe encourage more candidates to run for office.”

Secretary of State Steve Simon was unavailable to comment on this story.

The Libertarian Party plans to file more lawsuits over several years, including to eliminate the major and minor party status.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS verified that bills were introduced last legislative session to make these changes, but they didn’t pass.

Holbrook said legal action is their best option now.

“The two major parties in Minnesota don’t represent all of the voters, voices of all of the people in Minnesota,” said Holbrook.

We reached out to the county attorneys’ offices but they did not comment.

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